Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Diversity - Another Masher Drama

Today (3/09/14) I had to make some difficult decisions.  

As Chair of a multi Community organisation in Rotherham at the present time is not easy especially where public performance is concerned.

We the Communities had put together an amazing Festival of Diversity everyone was getting excited and then the Report about the grooming of young girls was published and the whole atmosphere around the Town changed. 

The Diversity Festival is an essential part of the Rotherham Show, and on the 2nd September we were called to Riverside where we were told that in the light of a March by the right wing Britain First the police felt unable to guarantee safety and the Council CEO and other Senior Managers decided to call the whole show off.  We were of course told only to pre warn key persons and to keep it all under wraps until after the Official Statement. 

We were also told that it was felt that to be seen to be celebrating when the Town is getting so many negative headlines might not be the best public relations exercise.

The Statement never came. 

Instead the telephone rings and a voice tells me that the Show is back on.  “Why?” I asked, well apparently the CEO had been talking to wrong Policemen and the right policemen were not prepared to back a statement that blamed the Police for causing the Show to be cancelled.

As Chair of the Rotherham Culture Group that promotes the Diversity Festival and with RAS / RAE providing the Insurance for a large chunk of the show, and having been around one or two Town Hall blocks I could see a botch up heading our way.

On the Tuesday we were told that Police were expecting 30 Britain First demonstrators, enough for concern and cancellation of the Show, it’s now ten times that number and the Show goes on.

Now here’s my problem, I’m told that I have to accept the word of South Yorkshire Police.  I suppose this is where my own heart starts rule my head a little, why should I trust the word of the very organisation that contributed largely to the problems that the Town is now having?  That is laying aside their handling of Hillsborough, Orgreave and Cliff Richard, led by a man viewed by the Parliamentary Committee as incompetent, which is without the “accidental” wrong figures they gave to the Committee.   Would you be confident? 

I’ve also had the misfortune to be in Town on business on two Saturdays that the South Yorkshire Police spent hundreds of thousands of pounds to let thugs march and chant racist propaganda without one arrest being made.   It was far from pleasant. 

So to be fair to everyone I opened it up for discussion on Facebook.  At this time I was open for guidance.  But I was accused of breaking confidences, of causing Communities to be afraid, of being wrong to open up the discussion, wanting it to be talked through only by the so called politically correct – which of course is why the Town is the bloody mess it is in now – people didn’t talk or act or share the knowledge.    

But that is forgetting the basic safety issues.  Could we as an organisation guarantee the safety to our guests and especially the children?  It does not have to be violent, simply people being aggressive, to cause a problem. 

There seemed to be failure to grasp the concept that for adults to decide to attend with their knowledge of what is going on in the Town is one thing, but inviting people who may not be aware of our current issues or are too young to understand is another thing all together. 

In all honesty my gut said no. 

So on a personal level I resigned as Chair and then having chatted with my fellow Directors at RAS and RAE it was decided to withdraw our Insurance Guarantee and offer of PA equipment.   

I do wonder if these people actually understand the anger in the Town. 

I believe that the Show and The Diversity Festival to be a celebration.  With a heavy Police presence is that celebration possible?   Is it in the ethos of the Rotherham Culture Group.   I personally don’t think so. 

I regret having to resign, as I view the Rotherham Culture Group as an important instrument in the rebuilding of the Rotherham Community, but I don’t think the Town or it’s people are yet at the re-building stage.  There is I think much wailing and gnashing of teeth yet to come.  That said I remain within the group and will help to contribute to the work. 

I was accused of being a bully.   Of running away.  I believe that a direct confrontation is not needed, and will serve no purpose. Now is not the time to try and regain the lost ground.

The remaining members of the Committee have decided to push on – on the basis of the Police promise.   That is their choice and I will stand shoulder to shoulder with them, but that will be my choice and I or the organisations I represent will not be inviting people into potentially dangerous situations.  

So that’s the latest Dickie Masher drama. 

If you are going to the Rotherham show have fun, be attentive, and take good care of yourself. 

In the words of Mr Cameron – hoho – never be afraid of making the hard decisions.

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